Cardinals' stadium plaza to be named for Tillman

Updated: April 27, 2004, 5:09 PM ET
Associated Press

PHOENIX -- Arizonans are moving to honor Pat Tillman, the former football star gave up his pro career to join the Army Rangers.

Tillman, 27, was killed in combat Thursday in Afghanistan.

Arizona State University and the Arizona Cardinals announced the establishment of an annual business school scholarship in Tillman's name.

Senator: Dedicate NFL season to Tillman
U.S. Senator George Allen has written to NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue to request that the league dedicate the upcoming season to Pat Tillman and the other U.S. soldiers serving in the war on terrorism.

Dear Commissioner Tagliabue:

I am sure you were as moved as I was back in 2002 when Pat Tillman made a decision for his country that involved personal risk and great personal sacrifice professionally and financially. When Pat left his multimillion dollar contract with the Arizona Cardinals to train and become an Army Ranger it was a stunning statement about America, about duty, about challenge and about Pat Tillman as a man.

The news this week that Pat had been killed fulfilling a duty he voluntarily took on should make us all pause to reflect on his life and how we can try to emulate some fraction of his courage in our own lives […]

While his family and friends grieve with the horrible news of his death, today is the day for the NFL to remember Pat Tillman's commitment, courage and sacrifice. I respectfully request that you and the rest of the NFL leadership dedicate your 2004 Season to Pat Tillman and all of our troops bravely serving in the War on Terrorism and that you use your opening game to make this special tribute […]

George Allen
U.S. Senator

ASU athletic director Gene Smith also said the Sun Devils will retire Tillman's No. 42 jersey after the 2004 season.

A memorial was set up outside the Cardinals' headquarters, with his No. 40 jersey in a glass frame, and a giant poster with Tillman on one knee, in uniform, on the Cardinals' sideline.

People brought flowers, teddy bears and balloons. One man in uniform and kilt showed up to play "Amazing Grace" and "America the Beautiful" on a bagpipe.

The Cardinals said they will retire Tillman's No. 40 and name the plaza surrounding the new stadium under construction in suburban Glendale the "Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza."

Vice president Michael Bidwill said the team was honored to have been associated with Tillman and "his life is a lesson in virtue to us all."

"Pat not only exemplified what it meant to be a scholar-athlete as a member of the Sun Devil family, but also what it meant to be an American," Smith said.

Meanwhile, as the university and the Cardinals posted tributes to Tillman on their Web sites and Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano ordered flags on the Arizona State campus flown at half-staff.

In Washington, one member of the state's congressional delegation said he planned to organize a series of speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives next week honoring Tillman. Another said he would send a Gold Star Banner to Tillman's family.

Gold Star Banners have been a symbol since World War I honoring soldiers killed in the line of duty.

"We honor his service and mourn his loss," said U.S. Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz.

But a former legislator said he was leery about singling Tillman out too much.

"The loss of his life is just as tragic as the loss of all the other service men and women who have died," said ex-Sen. Tom Smith, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who is serving on a state commission working on a memorial to honor military personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq.

"Their mothers and fathers feel the same anguish as the parents of Pat Tillman," Smith added.

The Arizona Legislature is considering legislation to authorize the memorial. Approved 29-0 by the Senate on Thursday, the measure awaits expected House approval before going to Napolitano.

The memorial would be built with private funding in Wesley Bolin Plaza across from the Capitol.

A state commission appointed by Napolitano is scheduled to meet May 6 to pick a design from among two finalists. The governor's approval also is required.

Napolitano led the push last year to have Squaw Peak in Phoenix and the Squaw Peak Parkway, a state highway in Phoenix, renamed after Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa, an Arizonan who was killed in combat in Iraq. Piestewa was the first female Native American killed while in combat for the U.S. Army.

Napolitano said Friday she didn't know what an appropriate commemoration would be for Tillman, who had refused media requests for interviews about his military service.

"Given the fact that he did this and didn't really want any press about it and wanted just to do it as the right thing to do, he probably would be the last person who would want all the press attention paid to the fact that he gave his life in Afghanistan," she said.

Gubernatorial spokeswoman Paul Allvin said Napolitano hadn't considered whether Tillman also should receive comparable individual honors.

State Sen. Jim Waring, a Phoenix Republican who sponsored the bill authorizing the planned memorial, said it's "probably way too soon" to decide on honors for Tillman.

"Does he certainly rate having something named after him? Absolutely," said Waring, adding that "there wouldn't be anything that's fitting enough for what this guy did. The sacrifice that he and his family made are really incredible."

Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press